Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says learners and teachers are adjusting well to the COVID-19 environment in schools since they re-opened on Monday. There were concerns over the department’s readiness for the resumption of classes as the numbers of coronavirus infections escalate.
Motshekga visited three schools in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, on Thursday to observe how they’re doing and whether they’re adhering to health and safety regulations under level 3 of the national lockdown.
Minister Motshekga says with the help of school governing bodies, schools have gone out of their way to make sure that classrooms are clean and there’s adherence to the COVID-19 regulations.
“Parents are here, which is heart-warming. Schools, as you can see have been cleaned more than they’re usually are. This is very nice and I hope we sustain the level of cleanliness, they’ve been organised, and people have begun to settle, both mentally and psychologically to the new environment. There are still issues that kids are not used to the masks, we’re trying these breathable masks that are washable, so that they can speak inside them, they can wear them, without feeling that they’re wearing masks,” says Motshekga.
In the video below, South Africans share their views on schools reopening:
One of the schools the Minister visited is Allan Ridge Secondary in Rabie Ridge, Midrand, where she interacted with learners as well as teachers. She also handed out masks to Grade 12 learners in class.
“So we have to keep the mouth closed, we have to wash our hands, we have to sanitize, we have to create distance. So because these are my neighbours, it’s not ordinary children, I’ve brought them breathing masks, so that they can breathe,” says Motshekga.
There have been complaints about the poor quality of masks handed out to children when they returned to school this week. The Minister acknowledges that the quality of masks needs to improve.
“The mask I think we can do better, I’ve not heard anything about sanitizers, but the masks I’ve been speaking to colleagues, they’ve kept with the specifications, but I don’t think in the next round we should do better. We should look for breathable masks, not ordinary masks. For now, I think these kids can tolerate them, but in time I think it must just be a burden to be wearing these masks which are not breathable. So it’s a matter which I have raised with the colleagues to say maybe in the next round of procurement we should go for breathable masks,” says Motshekga.
Motshekga is, however, happy with social-distancing measures in classes, but she’s yet to see how children behave outside of the classroom
“Because I’ve been coming during class, in-class it’s being done perfectly. I hope I’ll still be able to go to school during the break, to see if during break kids have been able to acclimatise to the new norm of social distancing. In the classroom it’s easy because they are in marked positions, measured by the tape. My next interest is to see how they interact in the morning, how they interact during break and how they interact when they leave the school,” says Motshekga.
In this video below Grey College pupil tests positive for COVID-19:
A teacher at Allan Ridge says they have to keep reminding children during break times not to get to close to one another.
“Honestly kids are kids and this pandemic has made it difficult for them because they’re used to being together, touching and sharing food together, so they still find it difficult to keep the social distancing during break times. What we do as teachers, remind them at all times that they should keep the social distancing. They’re also trying and also as matrics they’re more mature than other grades if I were to say,” says the teacher.
Minister Motshekga says her department will keep monitoring adherence to COVID-19 regulations to minimise the risk of infection at schools.